Friday, July 19, 2013

In the Land Down Under 1: The Best of Sydney

“Letting there be room for not knowing is the most important thing of all. When there's a big disappointment, we don't know if that's the end of the story. It may just be the beginning of a great adventure. Life is like that. We don't know anything. We call something bad; we call it good. But really we just don't know.” 

Have you ever been with someone you loved so much that you lost yourself? I was in a toxic, unhealthy relationship before I met my husband. It wasn't always like that though, not in the beginning but over time, things became more difficult between us. We broke up after two years and it took me almost the same amount of time to get over it and heal myself. It was a very long and slow process. That was certainly the lowest and saddest point of my life. I was very depressed. Well, some good things came out of that experience: getting over a heartache is a sure inexpensive way to lose weight. You lose your appetite. You never want to eat so you're making yourself thinner while your wallet gets fatter. Win-win situation. ha! I decided to get to know myself better in that time, to know what I really want in my life as well as what I also want in a partner.

I learned that some things fall apart so that better things can come together.

A few months after the big breakup, my dad suggested that we should go on a trip to take my mind off things. I didn't know much about Sydney nor Australia then except for five things: Nicole Kidman, Russell Crowe, The Sydney Opera House, koala bears and kangaroos. (Do we share the same thoughts? hehe)

So I bought a small Sydney guide book with a map and started planning our trip. That at least took my mind off my broken heart. A little nagging part of me was worried, it felt like there wasn't enough interesting things to do or see there. 

Was I ever glad to be so wrong about that! Going to Sydney was one of the best, fun trips I've ever had in my life. Sydney more than exceeded any expectations I might have had. The people were super nice, friendly, very laid-back. Sharing that wonderful experience with my dad made the trip even more special to me and someday, somehow, I hope to go back with zee dutchman in the future. He'll be over the moon. He's always wanted to visit Australia.

Sydney is a thriving cosmopolitan city with a multicultural background. Whether it's shopping, museums, wineries, art galleries, exhibitionists, beach or outdoors, it has plenty of appeal. With an ever growing economy and the Australian currency getting stronger, Sydney has landed on the third spot as one of the most expensive cities in the world after Tokyo and Osaka in 2013.

MUST-SEE/DO in Sydney


How can a trip to the capital of the 'land down under' be ever complete without a visit to its iconic landmark?  If Paris has the Eiffel Tower, the Coliseum to Italy and Netherlands the Windmills, then Sydney has The Opera House. You just cannot miss this famous landmark when visiting Sydney. The Sydney Opera House is in a superb location with a lot of nearby restaurants/cafes overlooking the fantastic harbour with the Sydney Harbour Bridge in the distance. Get your tickets and watch a show or performance. If you can't do that, book a tour to see the interiors of this stunning architecture.

Take a ferry to Taronga Zoo or a water taxi to get the best views from different angles of the Opera House from the water.

a "key to the shells"

In 2003, Jørn Utzon  received the Pritzker Prize, the highest honour in architecture.

a more closer look at this modern architecture (the Harbour Bridge in the background)

Oh no, its starting to rub off on my dad too. 
There was even a quick bridal shoot with the bride and her beautiful entourage. 
Too bad the weather was bleh!

Luckily the weather improved the next day which made it perfect for what I was planning to do next!

I knew when I saw it online that I HAD to do it! There was no way I was letting a chance like this go by. How often do you get to climb a bridge with fantastic views of Sydney and its harbour? This is exactly the sort of thing you only do once in your lifetime.

It was a little tricky to find their office. Then I saw it just when I started wondering if I was getting lost. My dad waited patiently for me while I did the climb. I wanted him to come along but he said he wasn't fit enough for this type of activity and so would rather sit somewhere at the Circular Quay and enjoy the street entertainment. I was also anxious with the time because I needed to head on to Macquarie's Chair immediately after the climb to find a good spot for the New Year's Eve countdown fireworks that was happening later that evening.

 The Rocks and Circular Quay in the background

If you ever think of visiting Sydney, then the Bridge Climb is A MUST.  Personally this was THE highlight of the trip. Yes, it is expensive and you're not allowed to bring your camera (so you have to buy their photos if you ever want a souvenir - very clever way to do business) but I am telling you that it is worth every single penny. What a truly phenomenal experience -just brilliant from start to finish! 

There are four ways to climb the bridge (click here for more info). That time I was torn between only two choices: walking along the outer rim of the bridge OR through the heart of the bridge walking along the lower arch where you can fully appreciate the bridge structure and architecture and then climbing a set of stairs all the way to the summit. I took the latter. The climb takes about three and a half hours to the summit. The activity is nothing too strenuous but since you WILL be walking for hours, it's best to go with a light stomach, comfy shoes and no hangovers!

complimentary view photo given by Bridge Climb in the cd together with your photos
complimentary photo given by Bridge Climb in the cd together with your photos
As you can see, you can do the climb during the day, at dawn, twilight or at night. It's totally your pick!  The summit of the bridge has also become a popular spot for marriage proposals. (With a view like that, it's hard to say NO)

Before you start the climb, you will be wearing climbing gear and will be secured to the bridge. I happen to have a fear of heights and I was afraid to go at first but most of the catwalks (steps) are quite wide, not as narrow as I originally thought it would be. The climb feels very safe and secure. The knowledgeable and enthusiastic guides also made the journey enjoyable. Everyone in my group was well taken-care of. The only scary part was crossing the bridge at the summit through a tiny narrow pathway to the middle where you can see the cars below you.

There I am, small, dark and exotic (lol) with the rest of my group.
I did it! It was cold and windy up there at the peak. My knees were wobbly from the height and I was slightly shivering from the cold but nothing can top that incredible 360 degree panoramic view of Sydney!

 The Wall of Fame 
See which famous celebrities have climbed the Sydney Harbour Bridge!

with Rita from Wales
Tip: Book way ahead as it's a very popular attraction. I was lucky to even get a spot. Timing is everything so go at the right time of the year. Rain, shine or hail, this activity will go on. Just DO IT!



This lively precinct is a 10 minute walk from the city center. Darling Harbour is THE place to go for dining, shopping or entertainment. MUST-SEE: Australian Maritime Museum, Sydney Aquarium, Sydney Wildlife World, IMAX and Madame Tussauds

We passed by this fun pool playground on the way to Darling Harbour. 

Cockle Bay Wharf is lined up with alfresco cafes, restaurants and bars. You can take a lovely stoll along the waterfront promenade. There's lots to see and you'll never run out of things to do.


The Circular Quay (pronounced as "key") is right smack between the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge so there's always a lot of action going on. Most of the ferries go to and from the Circular Quay and this is also where huge passenger cruise ships board and depart.

Don't miss the "street theater" and the various quirky buskers performing around the area.

busker no.1

 busker no.2

"oh hey I'm looking at my a**"
very flexible busker no.3  with very some amused tourists 

busker no.4


Head on to this part of the city for a little blast of Sydney's history. This cobble-stoned precinct is the oldest part of Sydney and is worth a stroll even just to see and feel its character and old-world charm.

Campbell's Cove

After the European settlement in 1788, the Rocks became known to be a slum area, occupied primarily by Sydney's convicts and often frequented by sailors looking for a little bit of fun with the ladies of the night. It also used to be the area where old cut-throat gangs meet up.
Campbell's Cove

It now houses restaurants, pubs, souvenir shops, boutiques and art galleries. The Rocks comes alive on Saturdays and Sundays with the weekend markets where you can buy food, delicacies, arts and craft made by Australian artisans. I heard that one of the restaurants at Cambell's Cove offers kangaroo meat on their menu. Anyone interested?

Most of the buildings in this area were originally built from local sandstones, hence the name, The Rocks.


Queen Victoria Building is a beautiful historical building turned into an upscale shopping center that takes up an entire block near the Town Hall. 

Town Hall
The levels of the floors at QVB can also represent the level of $$$$. The higher you go up, the more expensive the shops get. Oh well, there's always window shopping! You can also grab a light bite or a cup of coffee at one of the cafes.

Queen Victoria Building (QVB)
Queen Victoria Building (QVB)
Lo and behold, the politie on horses! I found this really amusing! 

Here's another fun thing to do in Sydney for another 360 panoramic view: Sydney Tower Eye and Skywalk at 268 meters above this beautiful city while walking on a glass viewing platform. How's that for fun? This is the highest open air attraction in Sydney.

More to come in my next posts : 
A visit to see some cuddly koala bears and kangaroos
Sydney's beautiful Botanical Gardens
New Year's Eve countdown, Oz style
plus a day trip to the Blue Mountains! 

I am doing my travel posts on rotation so I can get things started on each trip and you guys can see a little bit of this and that with the places I've been to.

Keep posted and happy weekend everyone! :)